Some background to this week’s Massachusetts hearing on assisted suicide

Destination: Beacon Hill.

My destination is Boston, in order to stand in solidarity with all who oppose a Massachusetts assisted suicide bill, and to honor the memory of Maggie Karner. I won’t be testifying, but as with every other life-issue bill, presence at the State House counts. I’ll be prepared to make short on-the-scene posts on the blog’s other social media platforms for as long as I can stay at the hearing.

What happens with Massachusetts House bill 1991 is sure to be duplicated in other states. The last time the state had an assisted suicide bill, New Hampshire and Connecticut faced the same challenge concurrently (and all three bills met the fate they deserved). A regionwide coalition opposed to assisted suicide prevailed that year. Nothing less is needed now.

I’ve come across two items that offer some background to the upcoming Massachusetts hearing. First, the Patients Rights Council has prepared a detailed analysis of the bill. More years ago than I can recall, the PRC’s executive director, Rita Marker, was the first person to bring my attention to the public policy implications of euthanasia and assisted suicide. The PRC analysis is worth reading in full. One point she highlights involves the conscience rights of health care providers who choose not to participate in assisted suicide. House bill 1991 would put them in an untenable position. From the PRC report:

The disclosure [that the provider does not participate in assisted suicide] requirements include, “at a minimum”: the mechanism the provider will use to make a referral to a willing provider, the complaint processes available to persons affected by the objecting provider and the fact that the unwilling provider must bear the cost of transferring a patient to a willing provider. Also, providers who are not willing to participate must describe internal and external complaint procedures to any person upon request as well as to a patient or the patient’s decision maker upon admission or at the time of initial receipt of health care…. However, the bill does not require any disclosure requirement from those who are willing to provide doctor-prescribed suicide. Why not?

Second is a news report from the Worcester Telegram (with my thanks to Stephen Mendelsohn for bringing it to my attention), covering a briefing on H. 1991 held earlier this week by disability rights organizations. John Kelly of Second Thoughts Massachusetts, who uses a wheelchair, spelled it out at the briefing: “I’ve been told to my face — and many people have thought it in my presence — that they would rather be dead than like me….That is not an uncommon prejudice in society, unfortunately. What the bill does is, people who have thought that all their lives now want to take action against themselves rather than get the assistance that they need and deserve.”

Second Thoughts Connecticut’s Facebook page has a wealth of links of interest to anyone following H. 1991 and similar bills. Check it out.

2 thoughts on “Some background to this week’s Massachusetts hearing on assisted suicide”

  1. Hi, I enjoy your thoughtful comments, but I strongly disagree. I am very glad that California (where I used to live) passed its recent right to die bill, and I look forward to having the same rights in Massachusetts.

    1. Alexis,
      Yesterday’s hearing in Boston was packed, as you’ve probably seen on the news. My concerns weren’t allayed by anything I heard. At least I’m glad that Massachusetts is having a more open process than California’s, where the recently-signed bill was passed during what was supposed to be a special legislative session dedicated to the Medicaid budget. The Massachusetts committee made good efforts in the time I was there (the first 2 hours of the hearing) to give as many people as possible a chance to testify.
      Thanks for reading!

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